HSTY 120-01X Honors Project

Pandemic Version

Updated April 3, 2020

As part of completing this course through the honors program, you will undertake an independent research project related to course themes.

For the assignment, you will produce a research presentaton based on an individual autobiography of your choice in which you will discuss the autobiography and work to place it and its author in their appropriate historical context.


  • Select and read an autobiography of full book length (at least 100 pages). Each student will select a different work, and each student must consult with the instructor about his/her choice.
  • Include a discussion of the historical context through consultation with appropriate chapters of the American Yawp textbook.
  • Consult and use at least two scholarly essays on the autobiography, the author, or the events/themes discussed in the book.
  • Specific requirements for the design of the poster will be circulated after spring break.

Slide Design

You may use either PowerPoint or Google Slides to design your presentation. Because we cannot meet in person, think about the slides as a poster, that is, something that someone could read in order to learn about the subject without requiring any narration from you. Your slides should answer the following questions:

  1. Who is the author of the autobiography?
    • What biographical facts do we know about this person?
  2. What do we know about the publication of the autobiography?
    • When and where was it published?
    • To what audience was it addressed?
  3. What events does the autobiography discuss?
    • Does it discuss the author’s entire life up to the point of writing?
    • If not, what events/chronology does the autobiography include? Why?
    • Does the author include a discussion of any major historical events (whether or not he/she participated in them)?
  4. How does the author’s description of his/her life fit into the context of the historical moment he/she was depicting?
    • What else was going on, based on your reading of the American Yawp?
    • What role, if any, did the author play in major historical events or trends?
  5. How do you analyze the author’s account of his/her own life as part of our study of autobiographies?
    • Does the account match Diane Bjorklund’s argument that in autobiographies authors tend to present themselves as being honest, modest, and have lived an interesting life?
    • Choose one “tool” outlined by Smith and Watson for analyzing autobiographies and use it to explore one aspect of the autobiography.

Technical Guidelines

  • Please include a bibliography or works cited slide at the end of the presentation, including full publication information for the autobiography you read.
  • You should include direct references and quotations to the autobiography. On your slides, you may cite anything from the autobiography by page number.
  • You may include images related to the person or their autobiography. These should include a citation on the slide on which you use them, and please source your images as reliably as possible. For images, I suggest the following sites:

Schedule (Updated)

  • February 3-20: Meet with Prof. Adelman to discuss interests/possible topics or figures
  • March 11: Finalize autobiography selection
  • March 11-30: Read selected autobiography
  • March 30: In-class research time
  • April 6: In-class research time/open office hours
  • April 13: In-class research time/open office hours
  • April 27: Presentations due
  • May 4: Poster presentations in live class session